What do PMB's children think?

2010-08-05 00:00

CHILDREN’S rights expert Irené Dugmore recently joined the team at the Msunduzi Innovation and Development Institute (Midi), as project manager for the Children’s City 2020 Project.

Dugmore has an honours degree in social work and 25 years of experience in Pietermaritzburg in the child care and child justice sectors. She joined the Midi team in July after 14 years with Nicro Pietermaritzburg and remains a member of the board of directors of the Pietermaritzburg Children’s Home (PCH).

The vision of Midi’s Children’s City 2020 Project is for a city that is safe for children and provides a healthy, clean, and green environment in which children can learn, study, live, work, relax, and play. And who better to ask what that might be than children themselves?

As part of her work, Dugmore will be leading a series of child-participation workshops in several schools around the city, which will be facilitated by a group of specially trained volunteers. “We need to hear what children think of their city, what they need and what their vision is for Pietermaritzburg, the city they live in and learn from,” said Dugmore.

Interestingly, some of the issues already raised by children through the Children’s City project are similar to those voiced by the city’s adult citizens, such as litter and crime. “They have concerns about litter and crime, problems with a lack of basic services such as the provision of water. They also raised the issue of potholes as they travel around the city on roads that are badly potholed.”

Some children expressed a desire to know who their ward councillors are, and one aim of the Children’s City 2020 project is to support the efforts by the manager for mayoral special programmes and projects in the Msunduzi Municipality, for a Children’s Council and also a Junior City Council.

Another objective that Dugmore will be involved in is Midi’s vision for the establishment of a “one-stop” centre for the city’s children — the Children’s Innovation and Development Centre. “This would be a safe place and a fun place for children to be,” says Dugmore. “There would be a huge park, with space for a variety of educational, environmental, and child-centered resources all in one place.”

Midi already has premises lined up. During Child Protection Week in May, KwaZulu-Natal Finance Minister Ina Cronjé announced that the provincial government has released the old, disused former Boys’ Model School in Jabu Ndlovu Street for this purpose. “We hope to see it buzzing with a wide range of resources and activities dedicated to serving, preserving and celebrating childhood in Msunduzi,” Cronjé said.

Midi envisages a long-term lease on the building and is busy raising the R12 million required to refurbish it. “That will take at least two years,” says Dugmore. “We hope to move in by January 2012.”

“It is a wonderful venue right in the city centre,” she said. “The location is superb considering how many children move through the city centre between home and school. The city’s transport hub at Freedom Square is nearby, as is the Bessie Head Library, which attracts huge numbers of children.”

Midi director Francois du Toit stressed that the services to be offered at the Children’s Innovation and Development Centre will be guided by organisations that are already working with children. “This is not about reinventing the wheel: Midi is not a service provider, it is a facilitator. So, we could see all sorts of resources being provided for children, such as counselling, child justice, environmental education and a safe place to play.”

“We are saying to the children’s rights community, join us and together, let’s design a wonderful, central venue for children.”

To begin the process of imagining the Children’s Innovation and Development Centre, Midi is hosting an inter-sectoral seminar on August 18 which is open to all organisations working on children’s issues in the Msunduzi Municipality. If you would like to participate, contact the Midi offices at 033 342 2844.

The Boys’ Model School

THE building (Jabu Ndlovu Street) was designed by the colonial engineer Peter Paterson and built by the contractors John Baverstock and Johan Winter, whose tender was acepted in 1865. The premises were rented to the colonial government to house the Pietermaritzburg High School. This commenced in 1866 and remained there until 1887 when it moved to College Road and became known as Maritzburg College.

The buildings were then occupied by the Boys’ Model School which had been founded in 1849. In 1984 its function changed and it became the Remedial Model Primary School. It is a single-storey brick building with a tiled roof in the Gothic Revival Style. It is fine example of Victorian school architecture. It was declared a National Monument in May 20, 1988. — Steve Camp, Historical Pietermaritzburg, Shuter and Shooter, 2001.

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